Fireball Spotted In Night Sky Causes Social Media Stir In Japan

 

A fireball spotted falling from the night sky over parts of western and central Japan has lit up social media, with users sharing images of the unusually bright shooting star.

Local media said the fireball was believed to be a bolide, an extremely bright meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

“We believe the last burst of light was as bright as the full moon,” Takeshi Inoue, director of the Akashi Municipal Planetarium, told Kyodo news agency.

READ ALSO: Top Scientist Asks Americans To Brace For COVID ‘Surge Upon A Surge’

The fireball was visible for just a few seconds in the early hours of Sunday, but was caught on cameras owned by national broadcaster NHK — which generally capture earthquake activity rather than extraterrestrial light shows.

“The sky went bright for a moment and I felt strange because it couldn’t be lightning,” said one Twitter user who saw the fireball. “I felt the power of the universe!”

“Was that a fireball? I thought it was the end of the world…” said another, tweeting a video of the meteor captured while driving.

A similarly bright shooting star was spotted over Tokyo in July and later identified as a meteor, fragments of which were found in neighbouring Chiba prefecture.

AFP

Tokyo To Urge Residents To Avoid ‘Non-Essential’ Outings

People wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus visit the restaurant area of Omoide Yokocho alleyway in Shinjuku district of Tokyo on November 19, 2020.
Philip FONG / AFP

 

Tokyo’s governor will urge residents to avoid non-essential outings and ask businesses serving alcohol to shut early as the country battles record coronavirus infections, local media said Wednesday.

Japan has seen a comparatively small outbreak of the respiratory disease, with just over 2,000 deaths and 135,400 infections, and it has not imposed the strict lockdowns seen elsewhere.

But it is now battling a third wave, reporting record numbers of daily infections nationwide in recent days.

Neither of the governor’s new calls will carry any enforcement mechanism. Even a state of emergency declared in the spring during a spike in infections did not carry punishments for those who defied calls to stay home or close their doors.

Tokyo has already raised its virus alert level to the top of a four-tier scale, and national broadcaster NHK said Governor Yuriko Koike would now call on residents to “refrain from making unnecessary and non-emergency outings”.

 

READ ALSO: US To Distribute 6.4 Million Covid Vaccine Doses In First Tranche

 

She is scheduled to give a press conference later Wednesday after a meeting of an advisory panel.

Other local media also reported the expected call from Koike, adding she would also ask businesses serving alcohol to close at 10 pm starting from Saturday for approximately three weeks.

Businesses complying will be eligible for compensation.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last week Japan was on “maximum alert” over the virus, and his government has been forced into a U-turn on a controversial domestic tourism campaign.

It initially insisted it would not scale back the so-called Go To campaign, but reversed course and has allowed individual regions to choose to opt-out.

So far, hard-hit Osaka and the northern city of Sapporo have been excluded from the programme, which subsidises travel inside the country in an attempt to help the struggling travel and hospitality industries.

-AFP

Britain Signs Post-Brexit Trade Deal With Japan

British Secretary of State for International Trade Elizabeth Truss (L) and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi exchange documents during a signing ceremony for economic partnership between Japan and Britain at the Iikura Annex of the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo on October 23, 2020. (Photo by Kimimasa MAYAMA / POOL / AFP)

 

Britain hailed its first major post-Brexit trade deal Friday after signing an agreement with Japan that it said shows it can stand alone on the global stage, as talks on a pact with the European Union remain bogged down.

London said the pact, which was agreed after just a few months of talks over the summer, would boost business between the two by £15.2 billion ($19.5 billion) and proved others could be signed elsewhere.

The deal comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pursues his “Global Britain” strategy that seeks potentially more advantageous trade deals than those that were negotiated while it was an EU member.

The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement covers sectors including food, textiles and technology and largely replicates the existing EU-Japan arrangement, which will no longer apply to Britain at the end of this year.

It is due to take effect on January 1 — the end of a transition period in which London and Brussels are trying to thrash out the terms of their own new relationship.

British-Japanese trade was worth around £30 billion last year, while Britain’s imports and exports to the European Union, its biggest trading partner, totalled $670 billion.

After the signing ceremony in Tokyo, Britain’s International Trade Minister Liz Truss said: “It used to be said that an independent UK would not be able to strike independent trade deals, or they would take years to conclude. But today we prove the naysayers wrong.”

Truss also said the deal “paves the way” for Britain to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership between 11 countries including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam and Australia.

But joining is likely to be a complex manoeuvre that will take years.

Long-running post-Brexit talks with the EU resumed Thursday after Britain ended a week of threats to abandon them.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier arrived in London vowing to work around the clock to salvage a trade deal and avert potential economic chaos at the end of the year — although key sticking points still remain.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Friday highlighted the importance of a smooth end to the Brexit transition period, especially for Japanese businesses that see the UK as a “gateway to continental Europe”.

“It is of paramount importance that the supply chains between the UK and EU are maintained even after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Japan has high hopes that an agreement is reached soon,” he said.

Britain formally left the EU in January, following a seismic referendum in 2016 that saw voters opt to end five decades of European integration.

COVID-19: Kano Govt Secures EU, Japan Grants To Help Individuals, SMEs

Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, spoke to reporters on Friday, February 7, 2020.
Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje

 

Kano state has secured Japan and the European Union (EU) Grants targeted at specific individuals and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which would go along way in supporting communities badly affected by the pandemic.

Facilitated by Office of the Special Adviser to Governor Ganduje on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Habibu Yahaya Hotoro, who also happens to be the Coordinating Focal Person of the Northwest Zonal SDGs Hub, the programme would alleviate some fears of what people could face in POST-COVID-19 period.

In a statement signed by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary Abba Anwar said, “A total sum of $1.1m is slated for the exercise. In a Cash-For-Work arrangement, the total number of 1,600 individuals will benefit. While 630 SMEs will also be part of the beneficiaries in the grant distribution process.”

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in a letter referenced ORG/4071 and dated 3rd of August, 2020, signed by Lealem Dinku, Officer in Charge, UNDP Nigeria and captioned “Support to communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Kano state,” it is stated that, “the United Nations has undertaken several initiatives to support the communities affected by the pandemic.”

It earlier stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic has caused infections, deaths and untold hardships to the most vulnerable particularly the urban poor in hotspots locations across the nation.”

Mr. Anwar further stated that The letter sent to the governor continued that, “It is in this regard that UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria in collaboration with the government of Japan, has initiated a project to support selected vulnerable communities affected by the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 to minimise the impact of job and livelihood losses and to also help contain the spread of the Virus.”

“We have identified Kano state as a key target state and will be working closely with your office and selected communities in implementing this initiative,” concludes the letter.

Meanwhile, the statement added that Governor Ganduje has already directed that, the most vulnerable people should be the target. As hinted by Hotoro,  “Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, after directing that our target should be the most vulnerable, he also made us open 500 new bank accounts for those who never benefited in any form of intervention in the past.”

Explaining that, governor Ganduje directed that all bank charges must be paid on behalf of those identified and selected beneficiaries, “All in an effort to effectively cushion the effect of the hardships caused by the pandemic,” he concludes.

Japan’s Military Seeks Record $52bn Budget

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga leaves at the end of an extraordinary Diet session at the Upper House of parliament in Tokyo on September 17, 2020. / AFP / Behrouz MEHRI

 

Japan’s defence ministry on Wednesday unveiled a record $52-billion budget request in a push to maintain military readiness under pressure from China and North Korea.

The military budget has been rising steadily for nearly a decade, with Japan saying it feels threatened by China’s vast military resources and territorial disputes, as well as unpredictable North Korea.

Pyongyang has repeatedly tested nuclear devices in recent years, and also missiles — including some flown over Japan.

The Ministry of Defence is asking for 5.49 trillion yen ($52 billion) for the fiscal year from April 2021, marking nine straight years of increases and a rise from the 5.3 trillion yen for the ongoing year to March.

Among Japan’s planned big purchases are two frigates and a submarine, with money also going to the development of a next-generation fighter.

The budget does not include a request for an alternative to the US-developed Aegis Ashore missile interception system, which is intended primarily to protect against possible North Korean attacks.

The Japanese government has scrapped a controversial plan to build the system in two key locations on the main island of Honshu and is now considering putting the interception system at sea — either by using ships or mega-floats or by building structures similar to offshore oil rigs.

Japanese defence officials said they cannot attach a price to the system until the government officially decides what to do with it.

Under the planned budget, the defence ministry also said it aims to boost the nation’s defensive capabilities in space and cybersecurity, although Japan’s progress on those fronts has been slower than other top economies.

Japan’s Self-Defence Force plans to launch a new cyber unit with 540 personnel, while a planned space unit will have 70.

It is the first military budget under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who came to power this month by pledging to continue the policies of Shinzo Abe.

Abe steadily sought to expand the role of Japan’s military, which is highly circumscribed by the country’s pacifist post-war constitution.

But the rising defence spending comes with the world’s third-largest economy chronically reliant on borrowed money to finance itself, contributing to public debt that stands at twice the size of its economy.

The government budget is facing particular pressure this year to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

Pompeo To Meet Australia, India, Japan FMs In Tokyo

 

Top diplomats from the United States, India, Australia and Japan will gather in Tokyo next week for rare face-to-face talks on tackling the coronavirus and strengthening co-operation, Japan said Tuesday.

The four nations have in recent years formed a strategic grouping — known as the “Quad” — meant to serve as a counterweight to China and promote their vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The meeting on October 6 will be attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced he would host the four-way talks — the second such meeting after the first was held in New York last year.

“It is the right time for these like-minded foreign ministers to gather in Tokyo for face-to-face talks, to exchange views about how to deal with issues that have emerged from the spread of the coronavirus, along with regional affairs,” he told reporters at a regular briefing.

It will be the first ministerial-level international meeting hosted by Japan since the pandemic began, and also since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took power this month.

Japan is moving gradually to open its borders to more foreigners, particularly business travellers, as it prepares to hold the postponed Olympics next summer.

AFP

53-Year-Old Kazuyoshi Miura, Sets Record As J-League’s Oldest Player

Yokohama FC forward Kazuyoshi Miura (L) dribles Kawasaki Frontale midfielder Manabu Saito (R) during the J-League football match between Kawasaki Frontale and Yokohama FC at Todoroki Athletics stadium in Kawasaki on September 23, 2020. 
STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP

Japan’s 53-year-old footballing golden oldie Kazuyoshi Miura, better known as King Kazu, won plaudits Thursday for his latest record-setting appearance but said he was disappointed he didn’t score.

Miura made history on Wednesday night in Yokohama FC’s game against Kawasaki Frontale, when he became the oldest J-League first division starter in history.

“King Kazu once again wrote a new chapter in the history of Japanese football,” the Nikkan Sports daily triumphantly declared.

Sports Nippon said spectators were hard-pressed to believe the “valiant performance” was by a 53-year-old.

“Kazu is our pride,” J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai said.

“This great record that will go down in history will be a bright light… for all active players as well as children dreaming of being future players,” he added.

“We hope we’ll continue to play outstandingly,” the 61-year-old said.

Miura, who has been with Yokohama FC since 2005, was subbed after 56 minutes in a match which saw his side lose 3-2.

He received a standing ovation as he left the pitch, but said afterwards he was disappointed by his performance.

“I was able to receive the ball in the middle of the pitch but couldn’t work a lot around the penalty area, which made me feel that I left something to be desired,” he said after the game.

“I want to make use of today’s experience for the next competitions in the league.”

Kazu has been setting age records for some time, and he became the oldest man to play in Japan’s league cup competition earlier this year.

In 2017, he became the oldest player to score in a professional match.

He has insisted he won’t hang up his boots until he turns 60, and he continues to be a massive draw for fans in both Japan and abroad.

His latest record even earned attention from FIFA’s official Twitter account.

“All hail King Kazu,” it tweeted, complete with crown emojis.

Japan’s New PM Suga Vows To Combat COVID-19, Revamp Economy

JAPAN-NEW-PM
Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga leaves at the end of an extraordinary Diet session at the Upper House of parliament in Tokyo on September 17, 2020. / AFP / Behrouz MEHRI

 

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged Wednesday to keep coronavirus infections under control and kickstart an economy in recession, as Shinzo Abe left office after a record-breaking tenure.

In his first remarks after being elected by parliament earlier Wednesday, Suga emphasised his will be a cabinet of continuity, seeking to further the policies championed by Abe.

“We need to carry forward the policies that the Abe administration was pushing, I feel that is the mission for which I have been called,” Suga told reporters.

He sidestepped questions on the possibility of a snap election to consolidate his position, saying that “what the public wants right now is that we manage to end the pandemic soon and at the same time we steadily restore the economy”.

“Achieving both the prevention of the spread of infection and rebuilding the economy is what they desire most… We hope to do our best on this issue first.”

He dwelled little on political ideology or foreign policy goals, instead pledging administrative reform, an end to “bureaucratic silos”, and greater digitalisation of government.

 

 

Newly elected leader of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Yoshihide Suga (C) is applauded after he was elected as Japan’s prime minister by the Lower House of parliament in Tokyo on September 16, 2020. / AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

He said he would seek continued strong ties with Washington and stable relations with China and Russia.

But he offered no details and made no mention of ongoing tensions with South Korea, or any specifics of his defence strategy, particularly towards North Korea.

– ‘Tough issues’ ahead –

The 71-year-old takes the top job after decades in politics, most recently in the role of chief cabinet secretary, where he was a key enforcer of government policy as well as spokesman.

A long-time Abe adviser and right-hand man, Suga has said his run was inspired by a desire to continue his predecessor’s policies.

His new cabinet is full of familiar faces, with Abe’s foreign and finance ministers staying on, and the outgoing premier’s brother appointed to lead the defence ministry.

Suga won an easy victory in a vote in parliament, where his ruling Liberal Democratic Party holds a commanding majority.

But he now faces a raft of tough challenges, from immediate problems like the coronavirus and the postponed Olympics to longer-term issues including a declining population.

“Tough issues are mounting before the Suga cabinet,” said Shinichi Nishikawa, a professor of political science at Meiji University in Tokyo.

“The coronavirus is the top priority to tackle. On the diplomatic front, there are many uncertain factors, including the US presidential election,” he told AFP.

Abe formally resigned on Wednesday along with his cabinet, ending his record run in office with a year left in his mandate.

He opted to step down after a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that has long plagued him and also helped force an early end to his first term in office, after just a year.

– ‘All my strength’ –

He hands the reins to a man who differs in many ways.

While Abe prioritised foreign relations, Suga is a diplomatic novice more comfortable negotiating between ministries and resolving bureaucratic roadblocks.

And unlike Abe, a political blue-blood, Suga is the son of a strawberry-farmer father and schoolteacher mother, who was raised in rural Akita and worked in a factory while he was in college.

Suga’s new cabinet offers further evidence of his desire for continuity, with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi staying on along with Finance Minister Taro Aso.

Just two women were appointed — as Olympics and justice ministers — down from the three who served in Abe’s last government.

On the economic front, Suga is said to be committed to his predecessor’s signature “Abenomics” programme of vast government spending, massive monetary easing and the cutting of red tape.

Diplomatically, he is expected to prioritise the key relationship with the United States, whoever is president after November’s election.

He will face a trickier question on ties with China, with a global hardening of opinion against Beijing after the coronavirus and unrest in Hong Kong.

Abe, who served as prime minister for a total of eight years, will stay on as a lawmaker, with some mooting the possibility he could undertake diplomatic missions.

On Wednesday morning as he prepared to resign, Abe said he had given “all my strength” and was ending his tenure “with a sense of pride”.

“I owe everything to the Japanese people.”

AFP

Yoshihide Suga Emerges Japan’s New Prime Minister After Abe’s Resignation

Japan’s Chief ex-Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga

 

 

Yoshihide Suga became Japan’s new prime minister on Wednesday, with the former chief cabinet secretary expected to stick closely to policies championed by Shinzo Abe during his record-breaking tenure.

Suga, 71, won an easy victory in a parliamentary vote, where his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) holds a commanding majority.

He bowed deeply as lawmakers applauded his win, but made no immediate comment. He is not expected to speak until late Wednesday when he gives his first press conference as prime minister.

Suga’s new cabinet was announced shortly after the vote, with several ministers keeping their jobs, including Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Finance Minister Taro Aso.

Abe’s brother Nobuo Kishi, who was adopted by his uncle as a child and carries his surname, is the new defence minister, replacing Taro Kono, who becomes administrative reform minister.

Suga is seen as a continuity candidate and has said his run was inspired by a desire to pursue Abe’s policies, although analysts warned of challenges ahead.

File photo: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. (Photo by JAPAN POOL VIA JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT

 

“Tough issues are mounting before the Suga cabinet,” said Shinichi Nishikawa, a professor of political science at Meiji University in Tokyo.

“The coronavirus is the top priority to tackle. On the diplomatic front, there are many uncertain factors, including the US presidential election,” he told AFP.

Abe formally resigned earlier Wednesday along with his cabinet, ending his record run in office with a year left in his mandate.

He was forced out by a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that has long plagued him.

Tokyo stock markets were largely unmoved by Suga’s election, and no major policy changes were expected when the Bank of Japan ends a two-day meeting on Thursday.

– ‘This is my mission’ –

Suga has spent decades in politics, and has a reputation for pushing government policies through a sometimes intractable bureaucracy.

He doggedly defended the government as its chief spokesman, including in sometimes testy exchanges with journalists.

His upbringing, as the son of a strawberry-farmer father and schoolteacher mother, sets him apart from Japan’s many blue-blood political elites.

But while he has championed some measures intended to help rural areas like his hometown in northern Japan’s Akita, his political views remain something of a mystery.

He is viewed as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign spoke more about the need for administrative reforms than any grand guiding principles.

Suga has said kickstarting the economy, which was already in recession before the pandemic, will be a top priority, along with containing the virus — essential if the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are to open as planned in July 2021.

His recipe for doing that? More of the same.

“In order to overcome the crisis and give the Japanese people a sense of relief, we need to succeed in what Prime Minister Abe has been implementing,” Suga said after being elected LDP leader on Monday.

“This is my mission.”

– ‘All my strength’ –

His cabinet was seen as evidence of those plans, with a slew of familiar faces, among them just two women — the Olympics and justice ministers — down from the three who served in Abe’s last government.

Suga is expected to stick with his predecessor’s signature “Abenomics” programme of vast government spending, massive monetary easing and the cutting of red tape.

And on the foreign policy front, where Suga is a relative novice, he is also likely to tread the path charted by Abe, prioritising the key relationship with the United States, regardless of who is president after November’s election.

Relations with China may prove trickier with a global hardening of opinion against Beijing after the coronavirus and unrest in Hong Kong.

There has been speculation that Suga could call a snap election to consolidate his position and avoid being seen as a caretaker prime minister, but he has been circumspect on the prospect.

Abe, who served as prime minister for a total of eight years, will stay on as a lawmaker, with some mooting the possibility he could undertake diplomatic missions.

On Wednesday morning as he prepared to resign, Abe said he had given “all my strength” and was ending his tenure “with a sense of pride”.

“I owe everything to the Japanese people.”

AFP

Osaka, Zverev Into US Open Last Four

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 08: Naomi Osaka of Japan serves during her Womens Singles quarter-finals match against Shelby Rogers of the United States on Day Nine of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images /AFP

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka sailed into the semi-finals of the US Open on Tuesday as Alexander Zverev of Germany booked his spot in the last four of the men’s draw.

Osaka, the tournament’s fourth seed, swept aside unseeded Shelby Rogers in straight sets to set up a match with Jennifer Brady for a place in Saturday’s final.

The 22-year-old Osaka required just 1hr 20 min inside an empty Arthur Ashe Stadium to defeat the 27-year-old Rogers 6-3, 6-4.

Osaka, the world number 9, said her victory was payback for three previous defeats to the 93rd-ranked Rogers.

They included a 2017 loss on clay in Charleston that Osaka said had left “a really bad aftertaste in my mouth.”

“Honestly, I just felt like she had the upper hand because I’ve never beaten her,” Osaka said.

“And those memories are stuck in my head so I consider this a little bit of revenge,” she added.

Osaka’s dominant service game contributed to a comfortable runout for the 2018 US Open champion.

She won 83 percent of points on her first serve and 70 percent on her second.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 08: Alexander Zverev of Germany reacts during his Men’s Singles quarterfinal match against Borna Coric of Croatia on Day Nine of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP.

 

In contrast, Rogers managed only 66 percent and 33 percent respectively. Rogers hit 29 unforced errors compared to just eight committed by Osaka.

Brady conquered some serious nerves to defeat Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva and reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

The American 28th seed needed just 1hr 9 min to blow away her 23rd-seeded opponent 6-3, 6-2.

“Coming into the match today, honestly I was feeling like I was going to poop my pants. I was very nervous,” said the 25-year-old Brady.

“I just tried to really stay calm and keep it cool as a cucumber out there,” she added.

Brady is yet to drop a set and has lost only 24 games during her march to the semis, the fewest of anyone left in the draw.

Osaka said Brady would be a formidable opponent.

“I think she’s a really amazing player she has the variety that I wish I had, so I’m a bit jealous,” said the Japanese.

Zverev bounced back from a shocking start to oust 27th-seeded Croatian Borna Coric in four sets.

– ‘Hungry’ –

The 23-year-old German prevailed 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 in 3hr 25min.

He began playing more aggressively after finding himself a set down, and 4-2 behind in the second set.

“I thought to myself I’m down 6-1, 4-2, I have nothing to lose at the moment,” Zverev.

The German will play Spain’s 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta for a place in Sunday’s final.

The Spaniard defeated 12th-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), 0-6, 6-3 in an epic five-setter that ended in the early hours of Wednesday.

The disqualification of top seed Novak Djokovic on Sunday has blown the men’s competition at Flushing Meadows wide open.

His departure means the US Open will crown a first-time Grand Slam winner on Sunday.

“I know that all the young guys are hungry for it. It’s going to be interesting,” said Zverev, who will play either 12th-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov or Spain’s Pablo Carrena Busta in the last four.

Zverev, who is in his second-consecutive Grand Slam semi-final after reaching the last four at the Australian Open this year, said he was yet to kick into fifth gear.

“I feel like I can still improve a few more things and that only gives me confidence,” he told reporters.

On Wednesday, second seed Dominic Thiem faces Australian Alex de Minaur and third seed Daniil Medvedev plays compatriot Andrey Rublev for the other semi-final spot.

In the women’s draw, Serena Williams faces unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova and former world number one Victoria Azarenka takes on 16th seed Elise Mertens in the remaining quarter-finals.

AFP

Typhoon Hits South Korea After Triggering Landslides In Japan

A general view shows debris washed up at Kagoshima Port in the aftermath of Typhoon Haishen in Kagoshima on September 7, 2020. – Powerful Typhoon Haishen approached South Korea on September 7 after slamming southern Japan with record winds and heavy rains that prompted evacuation warnings for millions.  STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP.

 

A powerful typhoon lashed South Korea on Monday after smashing into southern Japan with record winds and heavy rains that left up to eight people dead or missing.

More than 300,000 households were still without power Monday afternoon after Typhoon Haishen roared past Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, ripping off roofs and dumping half a metre (20 inches) of water in just a day.

Rescue workers were picking through mud and detritus seeking four missing people after a landslide in rural Miyazaki.

Dozens of police officers were on their way to help, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.

At least one person had been killed by the typhoon, he said, with the causes of another three deaths during the storm not immediately known.

Haishen, which came on the heels of another powerful typhoon, crashed into Okinawa on Saturday and moved northwards throughout Sunday.

Around 1.8 million people were told to seek shelter for fear that the 200-kilometre-per-hour (135-mile-per-hour) winds would wreak havoc on Japan’s wooden housing stock.

By lunchtime on Monday, the storm had moved over South Korea, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and triggering landslides.

Traffic lights and trees were felled in and around Busan, streets were flooded and power was knocked out for around 20,000 homes across the country.

The typhoon cut electricity to Hyundai Motor’s assembly lines in the city of Ulsan, bringing production to a halt for several hours.

Haishen churned its way up the eastern side of the peninsula into the Sea of Japan, known as the East Sea in Korea, having lost some of its destructive force, but still packing winds of up to 112 kilometres per hour.

The streets of the port city of Sokcho were largely empty, but some residents braved the rain and wind to take photos and marvel at the swell crashing into the harbour wall.

Outside the city, swollen rivers surged through the countryside carrying debris and the occasional fallen tree.

Haishen was forecast to make landfall again in Chongjin, North Hamgyong province in North Korea, at around midnight, according to South Korea’s Meteorological Administration.

Pyongyang’s state media have been on high alert, carrying live broadcasts of the situation, with one showing a reporter driving through a windy, inundated street in Tongchon, Kangwon province.

“Now is the time when we must be on our highest alert,” he said, adding that winds were as powerful as 126 kilometres per hour.

State broadcaster KCTV showed flooded streets and trees shaking from the strong gusts.

North Korea is still reeling from the effects of Typhoon Maysak last week.

Leader Kim Jong Un appeared in state media over the weekend inspecting the damage. He also sacked a top provincial official in South Hamgyong.

He ordered 12,000 ruling party members in Pyongyang to help with recovery efforts, and the official KCNA news agency reported Monday that around 300,000 had responded to his call.

The North’s state media have yet to specify how many people Maysak left missing, injured or dead.

– Hotels full –

In Japan, Typhoon Haishen first made its presence felt on a string of exposed, remote southern islands before sweeping past the Kyushu region.

As it approached Kyushu authorities issued evacuation orders for 1.8 million people, with 5.6 million others told to take precautions.

In some places, residents checked into hotels to shelter from the storm.

Japan converts its municipal buildings and schools into shelters during emergencies, but some people were reluctant to gather in large numbers due to fears over the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am worried about coronavirus infections. We’re with small children too, so we did not want other people to see us as big trouble,” an elderly man in Shibushi city told broadcaster NHK after checking in at a local hotel with seven relatives.

The storm forced the cancellation of nearly 550 flights and disrupted train services, the network said.

Many factories also suspended operations, including three plants operated by Toyota.

AFP

Powerful Typhoon Slams Japan With Violent Winds, Heavy Rain

Women walk in heavy rain as Typhoon Haishen hits Kagoshima, Kagoshima prefecture on September 6, 2020. – Typhoon Haishen began to lash southern Japan on September 6, with officials warning it could bring record rainfall and winds strong enough to snap power line poles and flip cars. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP.

 

A powerful typhoon that officials warned could bring record rains and gusts strong enough to flip cars slammed into southern Japan on Sunday, prompting authorities to urge millions to seek shelter.

Typhoon Haishen has weakened somewhat as it neared Japan’s mainland, and shifted further west out to sea, but it remained a “large” and “extremely strong” storm.

After lashing a string of exposed, remote southern islands, it neared Japan’s Kyushu region on Sunday evening, with authorities issues evacuation advisories for more than seven million residents.

The weather agency urged peoples to exercise “most serious caution” for possible record rain, violent winds, high waves and surging tides.

“Record-level rainfall is expected. It may cause landslides or it could cause even large rivers to flood,” said Yoshihisa Nakamoto, director of the forecast division at the Japan Meteorological Agency, during a televised briefing.

He added that surging tides could cause widespread flooding in low-lying areas, particularly around river mouths.

As the storm passed over several remote islands earlier Sunday, strong winds bent palm trees and sheets of rain lashed the area.

At an emergency cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that flooding and landslides were a possibility.

“Maximum caution is needed as record rain, violent winds, high waves and high tides are possible,” he said.

“I ask the Japanese people, including those who live in high-risk areas for flooding rivers or high tides, to stay informed and take action immediately to ensure their safety.”

At 7 pm (1000 GMT), Haishen was located about 100 kilometres (62 miles) south-southwest of Makurazaki city, packing gusts up to 216 kmh (135 miles) — strong enough to overturn vehicles and snap wooden power poles.

The storm was forecast to move north and travel off the western coast of Kyushu before reaching South Korea Monday morning, according to the weather agency.

– Evacuation orders, blackouts –

Authorities issued evacuation orders for 1.8 million people in the affected area, with 5.6 million people issued lower-level advisories, national broadcaster NHK said.

Evacuation orders in Japan are not compulsory, though authorities strongly urge people to follow them.

Local officials asked people to avoid crowded shelters where possible, to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections, and some shelters were forced to turn people away in order to have enough space to maintain social distancing.

In some places, residents were checking into local hotels to comply with evacuations advisories.

Hotel Polaris in Shibushi city, Kagoshima, said all 73 of its rooms were sold out for the weekend.

“This is a large building for our area. I think our guests have chosen to stay with us to feel safe,” front desk employee Takayuki Shinmura told AFP, adding that it was unusual for all of the hotel’s rooms to be occupied during typhoons.

Those who sought hotel rooms said the pandemic and discomfort of public shelters were weighing on them.

“I am worried about coronavirus infections. We’re with small children too, so we did not want other people to see us as big trouble,” an elderly man in Shibushi city told NHK after checking in at a local hotel with seven relatives.

The storm has forced the cancellation of nearly 550 flights and disrupted train services, NHK said.

Many factories also suspended operations, including three plants operated by Toyota.

A total of 79,000 homes in Kagoshima and neighbouring Miyazaki lost power Sunday evening as the storm approached the region.

Haishen forced the Japanese coast guard to suspend its search for dozens of missing sailors from the Gulf Livestock 1 cargo ship that sank in an earlier storm.

Two survivors and the body of a third crew member were found before the search was suspended, and the coast guard said it will resume the operation when Haishen clears the region.

AFP